Junior pitcher guides Niagara-Wheatfield to seventh league win
By David Yarger
Mackenzie Quider has a huge role for the Niagara-Wheatfield softball team. Not only does she pitch in the circle for the Falcons, she hits fourth in a strong lineup. On Tuesday evening, she showed exactly what she's capable of.
The Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons defeated the Grand Island Vikings in Niagara Frontier League play, 3-2. The game was the first home game of the year for the Falcons due to dreary April weather.
The game didn't start the way Quider would've wanted, as she gave up two runs in the first half of the first inning. Physically in the circle, Quider seemed uncomfortable with the dirt around the mound surface, which led to three walks and a wild pitch in the inning.
For Grand Island, Erin Cool and Chloe McQuestion began with walks. After a fielder's choice, which led to bases loaded, Jessica Faso hit an infield single that just stayed on the third base line to score Cool. McQuestion scored on the next batter after a wild pitch.
Niagara-Wheatfield answered in the bottom half of the first inning. Down 2-0, Maddie Evarts singled to begin. Mikaela Milleville followed with a bunt, which Evarts beat the throw to second base. Following a groundout to move Evarts and Milleville to third and second base, respectively, Quider laced a sacrifice fly to center to score Evarts. After one inning, the Falcons trailed, 2-1.
In the second inning, Quider avoided disaster after a one-out triple from Madison Koeppel, as she induced two ground outs to end the frame.
In the bottom half of the second inning, Carly Milleville hit a one-out double. One batter later, Katie Kostiw singled to drive in Carly from second and tie the game.
Following the second inning, Quider and Grand Island pitcher Emma Richard found their grooves.
From the third inning to the sixth inning, Quider limited the Vikings' offense to three hits and eight of the 12 outs were on the ground.
In that same stretch, Richard struck out four batters and also allowed three hits. One of the three hits came back to bite.
In the bottom of the sixth, Quider hit a 2-2 pitch from Richard over the left field fence for a solo home run. The eventual game-winner was Quider's second RBI of the day.
In the top of the seventh, Grand Island had runners on first and second base, but were unable to gather any runs and the game ended on a groundout to shortstop.
The win increases the Falcons NFL record to 7-1, while the loss drops Grand Island's record to 5-4 in league play.
After being down 2-0 at the start, coach Melanie Proefrock said the message stayed the same for the Falcons.
"There was no different message than we always give," Proefrock said. "These girls have showed consistency when we played eight games in Florida and what we've played so far against league opponents - batting over .400 as a team - so a team of 16, we definitely have confidence in all of our girls top-to-bottom to be able to hit the ball."
As for Grand Island coach Cheryl O'Connor, she admitted it was disappointing to lose a game the Vikings started off so well.
"We fizzled," O'Connor said. "We had no clutch hitting. They held us the rest of the game, so that's shame on us. We needed some clutch hits, we left too many runners on base, didn't get the bunt down when we needed to. Our offensive game definitely didn't do it today."
O'Connor was pleased with the outing from Richard, though, saying it was really a one pitch difference from the game being 2-2 and possibly going to extra innings.
Going forward, O'Connor said the Vikings need to focus on making contact in important situations to drive key runs in. The Vikings left 11 baserunners stranded in the loss.
"We have to be more bat-to-the-ball mentality. Not swing for the fence, but swing to get the ball out of the infield. ... So, we have to change our offensive thinking," O'Connor said.
Proefrock had high praise for Quider following her complete game win, as well as game winning home run.
"There's a reason Mackenzie's a captain," Proefrock said. "She's a junior and also a three-year varsity starter. She certainly can do it all. She's clutch, she never wanes in her confidence and we have the same amount of confidence in her. She's been throwing the bulk of the innings for us on the mound and offensively she's one of our leaders and our No. 4 batter we can count on."
For the Vikings, Koeppel and Faso each had two hits. The Vikings next contest is versus Niagara Falls at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday.
For the Falcons, Carly Milleville had two hits, and Jordyn Smith added a double. Niagara-Wheatfield's next game is at 4:45 p.m. versus Lewiston-Porter.